August Sales Roundup: For the Dogs

Stamford, CT–The sales performance for many publicly traded during the dog days of August were just that: for the dogs. Cincinnati-based cataloger/retailer Federated Department Stores (NYSE: FD), which mails the Macy’s by Mail, Bloomingdale’s by Mail, and Fingerhut catalogs, reported a 6% sales decrease, to $1.20 billion for the fiscal month ended Sept. 1, from $1.27 billion last year. Some of the decline resulted from the closing of Federated’s Stern’s retail chain. And some of it resulted from the strategic downsizing of Fingerhut. Sales at Fingerhut, which includes the Arizona Mail Order, Lew Magram, and Brownstone Studio titles, fell 40%, to $73 million from $120 million last year.

At nearby Columbus, OH-based cataloger/retailer Intimate Brands (NYSE: IBI), which mails the Victoria’s Secret women’s apparel catalog, total net sales decreased 4%, to $298.3 million from $312.2 million a year ago.

San Francisco-based high-tech gifts marketer Sharper Image (Nasdaq: SHRP) wasn’t immune to the economic woes either. Its August sales tumbled 23%, to $24.6 million from $32.1 million last year. Catalog sales decreased 19%, to $6.3 million from $7.8 million last year. And Web sales decreased 25%, to $3.0 million, from $4.0 million. In addition to the slumping economy, the company blamed the sales dip on the decreasing popularity of its Razor Scooter.

Downers Grove, IL-based The Spiegel Group (NasdaqNM: SPGLA), which mails the Eddie Bauer, Newport News and Spiegel catalogs, posted a 9% sales decline in August sales, to $188.7 million from $208.2 million last year. Broken out by division, sales declined 6% at Eddie Bauer, 12% at Newport News, and 15% at Spiegel. By channel, the Eddie Bauer stores suffered a 7% drop in sales; total catalog sales fell 21%, and Internet sales rose 60%. Nor does Spiegel expect a turnaround anytime soon. It expects to lose $0.5-$0.10 a share for the third quarter; earlier it had expected to post income of $0.10 per share. And the company is anticipating a 6%-9% drop in fourth-quarter revenue compared with last year.

Another general merchandise cataloger/retailer, J. C. Penney (NYSE: JCP), had somewhat better news to report. Although the Plano, TX-based company’s August catalog sales were down 12%, to $247 million, total company sales increased 4%, to $2.5 billion. Most of that gain came from its Eckerd’s drugstore business. August sales were also augmented by back-to-school promotions.

Hingham, MA-based women’s apparel cataloger/retailer The Talbots (NYSE: TLB) also reported an overall sales increase. Its August sales inched upward 3%, to $88.9 million from $86.1 million last year. “Our August comparable store sales were on plan,” chairman/president/CEO Arnold B. Zetcher said in a statement. “Given last year’s gain of 18.5% and the difficult retail environment, we are pleased with this performance.”

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